I imagine that if I had kept a running-tally of the amount of time that I’ve spent in train stations over the years it would add up to a considerable portion of my life thus far.
Today as I sat in the waiting room on platform 2 of Durham station, watching the departures board as the delayed time for my train home increased, minute by minute, I wasn’t all that happy to be a railway user, but most of the time I really quite enjoy train travel.
There’s just something about a train station.
Part of it is the people-watching. So many different people pass through, and when I find myself with a delayed train, one way to amuse myself through the wait is to sit down with a cup of coffee and try and guess at the who, what, where, why, and when of the people walking by.
And part of it is the residual romance left over from old-school films: whistling, steam trains; trunks being loaded into baggage cars by porters in caps; short, balding Belgian detectives heading off on the Orient Express; strangers meeting in a cafe over a cup of tea and beginning a romance, or plotting a murder; or pretty girls in hats, kissing soldiers goodbye.
Sadly, this kind of romantic scene only finds a place in a film now (what with it not being the 1920s any more), but even though I know that, it doesn’t stop me wishing it weren’t so.
There’s a good deal less romance involved with diesel and electric trains, electronic ticket barriers, Greggs and Burger King, and repeated warnings not to leave packages unattended, lest they be removed and destroyed by the British Transport Police.
Quite a lot less interesting. I can’t imagine anyone’s going to be making a film about that in 2092. Can you?
In summary: wishing I’d been born 80 years earlier than I was.